As Republicans picked up the pieces of their health care defeat on Friday afternoon, Democrats could not be more ecstatic. The opposition party has at times struggled to find unity and traction against President Donald Trump's message. This week, the party was united.
Democratic members of Congress said they helped drive grassroots opposition to the American Health Care Act across the country, raising the alarm after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill could lead to millions of Americans losing coverage. The president said as much Friday, telling the New York Times Democrats were responsible for the bill's defeat.
"I'm happy to take credit for it," said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) of the bill's defeat. "It wasn't just the Democrats. It was our allies across America."
Pallone said the combination of groups representing progressives, doctors, hospitals, older Americans and others affected by health care reform applied pressure, combined with the Democratic party, to force the bill's defeat. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) did not agree with Pallone or the president's assessment, citing disagreement among conservatives.
Grassroots liberal organizations like MoveOn fired off statements shortly after the health care bill's failure. "Your voice and your actions just helped save health care for millions of Americans," MoveOn told its members. Earlier Friday, the group's Washington director tweeted that MoveOn members made more than 30,000 calls to Congress about "Trumpcare" on Friday alone.
Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.) said creating a bill that drew no Democratic support guaranteed the legislation's failure. "It was resoundingly recognized as a bad bill," Kennedy said. "Doctors hate it. Hospitals hate it. Patients hate it. Seniors hate it. The mental health community hates it. Everybody hated this bill."
By not building consensus before announcing the bill, Republicans doomed the bill to failure. "They didn't do the hard part of governing," Kennedy said. "This is hard stuff, and they didn't even try to put in the effort."
The bill's defeat was an opportunity for Democratic members of Congress, relegated to the bottom of the totem pole in a Republican-controlled Congress, to appear before television cameras throughout the evening on Friday. They touted the bill's defeat, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralding the "defeat of #Trumpcare" as a "victory for all Americans."
Moving forward, Democratic members of Congress said they will happily work with Republicans on future health care legislation. Kennedy said he expects conservatives to return to reforming the Affordable Care Act. But Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), a rising star in the party who challenged Pelosi for House leadership following the 2016 election, said the next bill must provide help to people in his working class Ohio district struggling with addiction and high health care costs.
Leaving Capitol Hill after two days of tense waiting to vote on health care, Ryan's message to the president and Speaker Ryan after the bill's defeat was simple: "Get more Democrats elected."